I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Sunday, December 04, 2011

passengers

After work, we take the train from Philly to Ambler to see my dad, who is a charismatic nurseryman in Montgomery County.

(Walking around Doylestown, he showed me trees he planted in his 20s, and told of bygone revels where acid tabs floated in wine bottles floating around all-night lawn parties).

My camerado and I get on at Market East station with some books and half a pecan pie for my dad. The seats are packed with commuters; I see two together, free only because a woman has parked herself on the aisle and covered the remaining seats with a bag and backpack. I ask if we can sit there, she pauses her phone conversation, stands with an air of resentment, and indicates we may scoot in. I do so, but this has already taken so long and been so awkward that my camerado has taken the solo seat behind us.

I looked forward to this journey with him, so now I'm resenting this woman who took up three seats on a packed commuter train and prevented me from sitting next to someone who's only, you know, my soulmate. The woman resumes her phone conversation, conducting it in a language that to my ears sounds African. My resentment shrivels like a slug in salt. Everyone has a journey, and no immigrant has an easy journey.

The woman talks through two stations, and gets off the train. Of her entire conversation, only one sentence, folded casually into the surrounding African cadences, is in English:

everything you have will be destroyed

We have a great dinner in Ambler with my dad. He tells unbelievable stories about our family, raves about the pecan pie we made, and reminds me of the time we saw two whooping cranes with their (sole) offspring in a grassy river bed along the Gulf Coast, which, incredibly, I had forgotten. On the way back from Ambler in the empty train, I tell my camerado about what the woman from Africa said on the phone. His eyes grow large.

"That's really ominous," he says.

"I know!" I say.

"It sounds like something you would make up in one of those stories you write."

Friday, November 11, 2011

edward gorey buys me ices

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This pupil of Edward Gorey will not resist visiting his house whenever he's on Cape Cod. I had just enough time to tour the Gorey museum while on a food run--it was my turn to cook for my friend's Cape Cod writer's week--but stopped to look at the Edward Gorey shop first (along with Goreyolatry, I'm mad for T-shirts). I picked out a shirt but couldn't use my debit card because my bank decided I might have stolen it from myself while on vacation. My, apparently, Gormenghast-like bank transferred me from department to department while I explained again and again that I was still me, albeit in a different state. When my bank thawed my debit card--after an hour and a half on the phone--I bought my shirt but had no time to see the museum. Ten hungry writers awaited dinner.

The staff of the Gorey house had witnessed me pacing the green across the street, on my phone, pleading with my bank, and were sorry I couldn't stay to see the museum. The assistant director of the museum wrote a letter asking if a branch of my bank would buy me a sundae to make up for my lost afternoon.

On the way back to my friend's house, I stopped at a bank branch to show the letter. The bank manager didn't think it was funny at all, but I did get a sundae, courtesy of my bank, and Edward Gorey.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

jane is the girl of the hour

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Brad and Angelina can't have been photographed more than Jane and her bridegroom were last weekend. My camerado and I went up to our friend's wedding in Northern Tier Pa, to the small town where the groom's parents live. Jane's parents live one town over; her cousins went to school with the groom's siblings, and though the families have known each other for years, the bride and groom only met two years ago--at the funeral of a man who was a friend to both families. So he was the invisible guest this weekend.

(Wiktionary says guest and ghost are etymologically related, if only hypothetically.)

The bridesmaids were supposed to be, according to Jane, sexy, in tiny bowler hats, fishnets, and short cocktail dresses (in autumnal colors). Only one bridesmaid, an athletic Christian girl, wore a really short skirt--a Christian who is willing to look like a tart for her friend's wedding is the kind of Christian we need more of, even if she doesn't remember meeting me (I think because we were both so heavily focused on disliking Jane's erstwhile boyfriend the day we met).

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I got to be a bridesman, in black pants, purple shirt, olive suspenders, and the shiny patent-leather Chucks I wore in my cousin's wedding. (Reader, I have been in ten weddings: ring bearer x1, reader x2, bridesman x2, groomsman x3, violinist x1, best man x1.) The bride's aunts lobbied hard for me to wear a tiny bowler hat like the bridesmaids, and if you know how obsessed I am with my hair, you will understand how very funny I found this.

It was the weekend of my camerado's birthday, and we thought we would accomplish some hiking of the Northern Tier and lolling around--but we were enlisted to help first with the bridal shower, and then with the preparations for the ceremony, which was in a tent in the groom's parents' back yard. The preparations were intense--a group effort that gave us all a sense of having personally made the wedding happen. After the reception, the wedding party and lingering guests had a marshmallow roast on the back patio; I savored those marshmallows, feeling that they were well-deserved, and that their warm, gooey, celestially-white sweetness was the substance of our high-flying hopes for the bride and groom, our euphoria that the day had gone so beautifully, and our joy at being there.

When I say the preparations were intense, I'm referring to scenes like one below, where you see the groom building a bridge from his parents' back yard to the parking lot behind their house (adjacent to the municipal building):

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Spanning a gully, the bridge allowed guests to park in the lot. That this was a DIY wedding made it one of the better ones I've been to. If we're the people who will support this couple in life, we may as well be mustered up front, on the first day of their marriage, in a sacramental--which to say, physical, and connecting way.

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1: 27). So: pitch in, be a pal, don't let the world make you too much of a cynic, and voila! you have all the religion you need. Sacramental. I still like James.
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The camerado and I helped set up the tables, and generally followed orders, and got lunch at a sandwich place where we eavesdropped on locals who were gossiping about us: An outdoor wedding! on a chilly October weekend!

After lunch we got duded up and went to the inn where the bride and bridesmaids were dressing, and Jane gave me a hip flask; I always wanted my own hip flask. An aunt gave me a ride to the ceremony and joked again that I should be made to wear a tiny bowler, I'm laughing as I type this. My job in the wedding was to walk the moms in--steering around the poles that held up the tent--and then stand there. The bride and groom got through it all without blubbering. Laudable.

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See the groom's checked tie? Unlike the bride's team with our Bob Fosse idiom, the groom and his guys had an 80's theme, complete with Converse sneakers: this bodes well. There was mead (!) at the reception, and hot apple cider; Jane's friends are cool and her relatives welcome me as one of their own. A melange of Christians, hippies, and Christian hippies, Jane's family is much like mine, so I show up and immediately understand the cultural topography.

Jane also has smart, beautiful cousins on both sides who would murder for her:

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Sunday morning we packed up, and had breakfast at Jane's parents' house, and hit the road, taking local routes so we could see my beloved natal state in greater detail. Pennsylvania is a sideways rectangle, like a tasteful, soothing painting of a bucolic scene in a doctor's waiting room, or an ant farm. As we progressed from town to town I had the sense of slowly dropping from a great height, finally coming to rest on the Delaware Valley's coastal plain. I saw many towns I had never seen before, but nevertheless loved, as part of my home state. This animal devotion to place is baffling to the rational part of my brain. Is this patriotism? Or something like it? I should love Pennsylvania less because--after having helped hoist ten of my friends and relatives into the privileges and protections of marriage--I can't marry here. But strangely, I find I love my state no less for this failing, significant as it is.

So let me say that when all are free to marry in Pennsylvania, I will love my home state that much more.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

two pathways

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A friend of mine has a Cape Cod house, and hosts a writer's week every summer. Everyone picks a spot on the property to work; above you see one of my favorites. A bayberry tree obscures the entrance to this path; a cedar partly blocks the other end. The two trees become defining authorities of this space. I couldn't get a good shot of the bayberry, but you see the cedar standing to the right of the opening at the path's far end.

Here it is a little closer:

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And see that rock, surfacing in the path, like a cetacean's back? My semi-busted lawn chair--and notebook--and the pens that will spill from my pocket--orbit its gravity. You need something to tell you where you are, and this rock says, You are here. Lying low, it seems mellow and unassuming. But don't be fooled. This rock is also saying Me and my chums have been giving New England farmers a hard time since the first plow showed up here.

So: this stately path, with the bayberry tree and cedar at either end, and the rock in the middle, leading so graciously from the back of the house toward the water (into which the dock rotted years ago) was cut by my friend's father. But my friend's mother carved paths of her own through the woods to the side of the house, when she was a child--before she ever met the man she would marry--

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and these other, older paths have an entirely different character.

Though small, the woods on the side of the house seem like a borderless wild. Crows in spindly pines lend a note of menace. The paths that meander here form a loose triangle--a triangle that spawns other paths at its corners, prompting me to imagine a forest of decorous, localized infinities.

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This is the kind of wood where Alice might forget her name, till startled into memory by a panicked fawn.

The crisscrossing paths can take you through the woods--if that's what you want--but they seem more designed to take you into them. Following the lines of this triangle through the trees, branching off toward the water or the lawn, and then swinging back in toward the center, I feel like a child myself. The paths teach me to wander. The woman who made them is old now--but the brisk intelligence of her childhood lingers here.

If you could be here long enough, and be still enough, and be in the right frame of mind, you might be permitted to see--

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--who knows? I don't stay to find out--I like to remember the imaginative possibilities of childhood--not be subsumed by them. As a child I stepped intrepidly into fairy rings--those mushroom circles that are supposed to be doorways to other places--hoping to be swept into magical realms. But as an adult I remember how many fairy legends involve placating fairies, or warding them off entirely.

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My feeling toward the other realm, if there is one, may be best summed up by Robert Frost. Good fences make good neighbors.

(The farther you are from the pagan world, the easier it is to romanticize it.)

At the end of the main path--the one will take you through, instead of into, if you choose it-- three stones stand. The stones define the end of the path, becoming an ellipsis that separates the shady woods from the bright, dusty road. The stones have so much personality--I took more photos of them than I normally take of my relatives.

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They remind me of three spinster aunties--spinsters in the ancient sense of that word--who might nudge you forward-- encourage you along--and then quietly remind you when you had gone too far.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

a purloined letter

When I was 12 or so my mother and I were invited to visit my grandmother's cousin and his wife at their beachfront house in Ocean City, NJ. He had been successful in business, and was heir to the sandy good looks of the most genetically fortunate strain of my family, as well as our Civil War ancestor's venerable and imposing name.

(A venerable and imposing name did not save our Civil War ancestor from dying young, sick, and broke).

I was prepared to be impressed with my third cousin and his wife. She had been a bookseller and had beautiful volumes in the house, which she showed me (Oscar Wilde!). She also complained to my mother that it was "hard to find good help these days," which struck me as cliche even then, and an odd complaint to share with a single working mother who could afford a day trip to the shore, but not an overnight stay, and not, surely, beachfront property or "help..."

I pocketed the monogrammed napkin that had my third cousin's initial on it, amazed that such a thing could exist. Was I really in this beautiful place? Was I really related to these beautiful people?

I remember a night walk on the beach; the waves making their ruckus, the stars close, and insistent.

Toward the end of our evening we gathered in the sunken living room to watch a memorial video from our cousins' world cruise. "Sayanora, Singapore-a," was the refrain of the treacly choir at the finale of the video. The endlessly repeated melody burned itself into my memory, and I can sing it still.

I think we had a nice evening.

On the way home in the car, my mother sang "Sayanora, we sing-a poor-a."

I laughed--but also marveled at my monogrammed napkin, with its single, architecturally imposing capitol letter.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

tennessee summer 2011

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We felt after Christmas that we hadn't spent enough time with our niece, so we scheduled some niece time for the summer. She's seven, and a master at being goofy, finding fun things to do, and making stuff up. The dessert you see above--vanilla frozen yogurt, white chocolate chips, and marshmallows--is her invention: It's called a Ghost. I love ghosts and I love new foods so I was excited to try one. It was OK.

We also got to see my in-laws; it's rare to like both; I'm lucky. Topics I share with my mother-in-law include travel, plants, and Hemingway. Topics I share with my father-in-law are nutrition, local history, and thrift. Both are lively and interesting.

What would I have done if they had been dull?
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I would have been very patient and nice. My father-in-law took us, the niece, and my brother-in-law to see this waterfall. The waterfall has the honor of being my camerado's screensaver, so when I saw it, I thought, Hello screensaver.

The waterfall was adjacent to a campsite with a conference center. My father-in-law treated us to lunch in the cafeteria, where I beheld a natural wonder that impressed me just as much as the waterfall.

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Anything in the south that is unfamiliar to me I assume is typical of the south, so these incredibly high meringue peaks on the banana pudding made me think, Incredibly high meringue peaks on banana pudding is a storied Southern tradition. But when my camerado and his brother marveled at the high peaks, I appreciated what a rare thing it was to see them.

They reminded me of the Nome King in the Oz books.

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The day was rainy and because the most talkative person in the car (my father-in-law, lively, see above) was busy driving, this was a quiet, contemplative outing for all of us. The large, plush, smooth-riding car hushed sound. As we drove around the campground, my camerado and his brother murmured about the places they had played, and I kept tripping down time corridors of my own.

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The cafeteria took me right back to the Boy Scout camps and Christian retreat centers of my childhood.

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On the way back it fell to me to entertain the niece, who wanted pictures of royals. I had to draw the Queen, the Diana, the recent Kate, and William. Drawing them all inside a satisfied dragon seemed a good solution, but the niece was inexorable. So I discovered a new talent, and you may find me at the Jersey shore drawing royals in pastel on the boardwalk. In return, I made the niece learn the name of the flower in Kate's bouquet that has the same name as the Prince: Sweet William. I had seen it in my brother-in-law's garden.

We also took the niece to a legendary toy store that I thought was overrated (I like the one in Franklin, TN), and the Nashville Zoo, which I thought was good, and to Kung Fu Panda II, with its sissy villain.

We aren't home enough to have a dog of our own, so it was great to stay with some dogs.

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Murphy's one desire is to fetch a tennis ball. I aspire to this kind of single-minded purpose.

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I shouldn't praise my own photo, but I like this picture: could John Singer Sargent have depicted one of his privileged thoroughbreds with greater poise or sophistication? Last night we saw The Cherry Orchard simulcast from London--this dog, Lola reminds me of Madame Renevsky, a creature of affection, living only in the moment.

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Mr. Meow, a neighbor of my mother-in-law. He watches the house when she's away.

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One night we walked around Nashville when this crazy sunset unfurled. The light was strange, golden and heavy, like I imagine light in Italy might be. We walked on the campus of a university with gazebos, and statues to decipher. Prospective first-years roamed around with and without their parents--entering that protracted American twilight between childhood and independence.
We've been much more exotic places than Nashville this summer (New England!), but I really enjoyed this trip. Not everyone gets to step sideways into a new family in adulthood; the one I've found myself in is friendly, smart, and fun. We said goodbye after breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, and my father-in-law put his arm around me and said, "You're the third son I didn't have." He'd asked my thoughts on dinosaur extinction over the meal (asteroid seems a safe bet), and for this I liked him even more. A family's borders are never stable; they take on new territories, and relinquish others. It's mysterious, like plate tectonics; the ground moves beneath you, you go with it.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

alapocas: hike 12 of 2011: pawpaw trees and brandywine blue gneiss

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My camerado chose this hike from the book of hikes that we are beginning to realize we will not finish this year, though that had been our goal. Alapocas Run State park is a lovely wild place in Wilmington Delaware, situated by a freeway, similar to Tinicum Marsh in Philly.

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The parkland was set aside by William Poole Bancroft for the people of Delaware. W.P.B was the son of Joseph Bancroft, who seems to have made the family money, and the brother of Samuel Bancroft, whose collection of PreRaphealite art is the largest in the United States. I've never been able to keep the Bancrofts or the DuPonts straight, but I feel I owe it to the philanthropists of Delaware to try.

We liked this hike. It began as a quiet, pleasant walk through riparian woods.

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(These fungi resemble the bonnet-wearing oysters in Disney's Alice in Wonderland--my first, instantly addicting taste of the surreal.)

The trail led us up a rise into a pawpaw forest. I had never seen so many, and had the sense of being somewhere very exotic and new. Look how the leaves fan out at the ends of the pawpaw branches:

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Very graceful. The pawpaw is the largest fruit native to North America--I envision a day when everyone has a pawpaw tree in the yard, having finally realized how thrifty and ecologically shrewd it is to grow low-maintenance foodstuffs at home. This may be unrealistic: I know only two people who have tried pawpaw, and neither liked it.

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But I need to taste it myself. Pawpaw is the only species of its genus found outside the tropics; our hiking book said breadfruit was a relative, but I think the author confused pawpaw with papaya. Wrong again, book! Like Jango Fett, pawpaws reproduce by cloning (which I may try, so be warned), and is the host plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly (which we did not see).


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The trail led to the base of these cliffs. They are blue gneiss, which I had pictured as lush cobalt and marbled, but blue gneiss, it seems, is battleship gray unless freshly broken. Still, this view was impressive, and I was able to imagine these cliffs veiled by a waterfall, through which a glistening tarzan might step.

We got lost on the way back, and emerged from the park, hot and weary, in a suburb, where, we surmised, many Native Americans must reside--because the sign for the development is crowned with a beautiful silhouette of an Indian shooting an arrow.

Or, at least, it seems likely that Indians are given a nice discount on homes here.

We'd been invited to Peter's house for dinner (Peter and his wife gave my camerado the hiking book that started this whole thing), and were supposed to bring beer--but found none in Delaware and were too tired to stop in Philly. We showed up at Peter's door and explained--he said, Well actually, I am very disappointed.

So we borrowed Peter's dog and walked to the liquor store to keep our end of the bargain, which, after all, is only fair.

Dinner was outstanding, as it always is at Peter's.

Friday, June 10, 2011

hike 11 of 2011, how we survived the Pine Barrens Batona Trail

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I've loved the Pine Barrens since I was a kid. I have happy memories of coming to the Pinelands to pick blueberries, visit ruins, look for slag iron, and swim and canoe in the cedar water, which we would invariably compare to root beer--its brown color is from iron in the soil and cedar tannins.

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The soil is so sandy only certain plants thrive here, and the trees tend to be shrimpy, like pitch pines, or the blackjack oak above. The shrub layer is an ocean of blueberries. Their snowdrop flowers bloomed for us when we visited:

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The hike our book recommended began at the Carranza memorial, paid for by Mexican schoolchildren to commemorate a dashing young Mexican aviator who crashed in the pines coming home from a goodwill mission in 1928. You know I love elegies and am ever eager to grieve, so the memorial appealed to me. There is still a ceremony here every year with the local American Legion post and the New York and Philadelphia Mexican consulates.

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The memorial was hard to find! We backtracked and asked directions in a small town we passed through. Our hiking book once again proved its ineptitude by averring that the memorial would be hidden from the road by trees: It was clearly visible, confirming our contempt for the book. Other discrepancies arose on this hike; we wondered again if the authors of hiking books actually hike their own hikes...

The Pine Barrens is the most exotic biome we've visited in our year of hiking, and our most wretched hike. Although I have a fascination for Pinelands history, culture, and ecology, this hike was overpoweringly monotonous. South Jersey is coastal plain, so the landscape was flat as an ironing board, and because the Barrens' peculiar soil limits the diversity of species that grow here, we saw the same flora over and over again. By canoe, the barrens are thrillingly varied and picturesque, but hiking them as we did was like being forced to listen to your favorite song for four hours straight.

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Beautiful, right? But the unrelieved monotony of the terrain, combined with absolute windless stillness and thick humidity--and an abundance of ticks (we pulled four off us on the trail and five more at home) made Batona the only actually hellish hike we've done this year. I found myself meditating vividly on, almost inhabiting the Borges essay about literary hells--and understanding for the first time how our pioneer ancestors could have regarded all wilderness as desolate wastes fit only for devils--and lunatics.

(This may be the place to confess that my horror of Lyme disease may be disproportionate to the actual risk... but I'm working on it.)

We would have turned back, but the book--the perfidious book--promised a spectacular view from a fire tower if we made it to the turn-around. Would anyone, I wondered, put up a memorial to me on the trail if I died of boredom on it? And if they did, could it be a dramatic, morose, and gothicky ruin like in this Caspar David Freidrich painting:

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Start saving your pennies!

The Batona Trail is maintained by the Batona Club--Batona being an acronym for Back To Nature. Because they thought up an appealing acronym for themselves, and because the Batona Trail is the most clearly and intelligently blazed trail we've hiked this year, I felt very affectionate toward the Batona Club as we hiked, despite my other miseries. I imagined Batona Club members marching to our rescue with humongous foaming mugs of locally brewed root beer, robustly singing Batona hiking songs, all bearded, of course, and in lederhosen.

Then, because the blazes on the trail are hot pink, the lederhosen became hot pink.

This reverie preserved my sanity as we neared our destination. There was a slight breeze, blueberry bushes gave way to ferns, and the trail rose up a slope. I saw a blueberry bee--a favorite--and then, the fire tower:

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The fire tower was the only place we saw invasive species on this hike: Asian white mulberries, empress tree, tree of hell, and multiflora rose--because, I'm guessing, these species thrive along edges and in disturbed areas, and the seeds probably hitchhiked in with the wise sages who scrawled poetry and philosophy, zen koans, and words of existential encouragement in marker all over the fire tower.

So, we saw the view.
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Now you've seen it too, and will never have to do this hike. I stood on the fire tower, sticky, tired, uncomfortable, and vaguely angry, and noticed a trio of groundhogs browsing the ferns below. From our height, it was difficult to tell their size, so I had to eliminate some other mammal possibilities before settling on groundhogs. Because muskrats had been a contender, my camerado and I discussed possible meanings of the song Muskrat Love by Captain and Tenneile, ultimately deciding that the song had no esoteric secrets. We watched the groundhogs from the silence of the tower and I realized that the trio of groundhogs had wholly dispelled my ill-humor.

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Thanks to the groundhogs, who, we've learned, have the ability to impart a Yoda-like calm to troubled wayfarers, I faced the walk back with a composed mind. My camerado, however, had reached the end of his patience and now found himself maddened by the repetitive flatness of the hike and the soggy air, becoming increasingly frustrated as we approached our car. This is the only hike in the book we agreed to never hike again.

That said--for the record--the fauna did not let us down. We saw: a fence lizard (with gray markings exactly the color of lichen), black swallowtail butterflies, a green sweat bee--staggeringly vibrant, and the astonishing caterpillar hunter beetle in the photo above. (Caterpillar hunter is a deliberately introduced exotic, and one that, like the honeybee, no one seems to resent). Our passing flushed a black bird with orange markings from the shrub--a Baltimore Oriole...? We also saw more adorable blueberry bees and the homes of ground-nesting bees. The Pine Barrens, specifically Batsto Village, is the earliest day trip I can remember, and for this and a thousand other reasons our infernal hike will not color my feelings about the Pinelands--but we'll likely never visit again in summer unless in a canoe, preferably with a bearded, lederhosen-clad gondolier, and trios of singing muskrats along the banks.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

tenth hike of 2011: pennypack ecological restoration trust, best hike yet (?), plus, Swedenborgians!

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Possibly my favorite of the new plants I've learned this year: the may apple, whose homespun-sounding name does not betray its strange and potent nature--one of its aliases is American mandrake, which suits it better. Each may apple makes one paired set of fruits that taste, I think, a little like pomegranate seeds, and should not be eaten in large quantities; the may apple contains podophyllotoxin in all its parts, a poison which can overcome cancer and venereal disease; and--one of my native plant enthusiast friends told me--a grove of may apples is actually one organism, each stem emanating from an ancient root that can live for centuries. The may apple is the only plant of its genus in the Americas; its closest cousins live in China, Tibet, and the mysterious, Yeti-haunted Himalayas.

(To me they look like symbols of the true, occult sun that alchemists believed burned with philosophical fire.)

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Since the first of the year we've been making our way through a mediocre hiking book, 50 Greatest Hikes of the Delaware Valley (I change the name every time I reference it, so I can malign it freely), and I think we agreed that the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust is our favorite so far--though we've been so many great places this year, it's tough to pick one!

The Pennypack creek is an historic mill creek that begins in Montgomery County PA and ends 22 miles downstream in Northeast Philly. We saw downstream Pennypack with our friend the Duchess in April, and last week, at the end of a spell of mellow, cool, rainy, English weather, did upstream Pennypack--

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My hiking companion and camerado loves streams, so this was a great hike for him. I was particularly excited to see the managed meadows of the Pennypack Trust; land in the Delaware Valley yearns to be oak hickory forest, so meadows are rare here:

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I'm fascinated by manipulated landscapes that exist in cooperation with nature. In the creation of a natural, but anthropogenic place, a meadow maker performs a task that would otherwise be the work of fire--he becomes fire's proxy. Meadow makers actively sculpt the land, passively farm it, and offer hospitality to meadow birds and insects.

There was also a perfect pond, where we heard green frogs calling:

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and lush riparian woods, where we saw bladdernut:

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and a rustic Swedenborgian kiosk:

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It's good to know there are Swedenborgians around; Swedenborg influenced some of my favorite minds: Yeats, Borges, Jung, and Blake--there's a Rushmore for you--and my mother, who was always just heterodox enough to make the other evangelicals nervous.

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I wish she could have seen this idyllic Swedenborgian garden, she would have thought it was cool. We did!

After our hike, we went to Earth Bread Brewery in Mount Airy to celebrate our tenth hike, because we went there after hike #1, in the bleak midwinter.

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